rita’s history

From a front porch in Philly to an international presence, Rita’s Italian Ice franchise has become one of the most beloved frozen treat businesses in the world

When former firefighter Bob Tumolo and his mother began selling Italian ice from their front porch one sweltering summer day in 1984, there was no way of knowing then that such humble beginnings would grow into an international sensation still going strong over three decades later.

Tumolo just wanted to earn a little extra income, and his frozen treats were an instant hit. He named the business after his wife, Rita. While the Tumolos sold the brand in 2005, Rita’s today is 600+ units strong in the U.S. and internationally, and is one of the most beloved frozen treats around. We still make our ice fresh every day, using real fruit, and it’s still refreshing. Still fun. Still delicious.

And still unlike anything else on the market.

Rita’s history still informs our future

What Bob Tumolo did when he sold Italian ice – or water ice, as it’s commonly known in Philadelphia – was establish a baseline of happy. Fruity, frozen treats on a hot summer day made people happy because they tasted great (and cooled them down!) and were unlike anything else on the market. Bob used real fruit in his Italian ices, which are based on the popular homemade Italian treat known as granita, and we still use real fruit in our ices today.

We’re still making guests happy today, too, because our two core products – Italian ice and frozen custard – are unlike anything else on the market.

Praise from industry experts

If you’ve ever tasted a Rita’s Italian ice or frozen custard, you really get it. It takes only one bite before your eyes widen and you have to talk with your mouth full because it’s Just. That. Good.

Our commitment to producing a quality product does not go unnoticed. Take a look at a few of our recent accolades:

  • Nation’s No. 1 Franchise Among Specialty Ices – Entrepreneur
  • Top 100 in Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500
  • Top 25 Franchise High Performer – Wall Street Journal
  • Best Custard/Ice Cream – Zagat’s
  • No. 2 among “Chains ranked by likelihood of customer return” – Nation’s Restaurant News

Rita’s is not only an amazing product, it’s an amazing experience. It’s why our brand has such a loyal following. Every year in February or March, when our seasonal units are ready to open up again after being closed in the colder months, people are already queueing up.

“I think one of the things that makes us click is being closed for those couple months out of the year,” says John Vanore, a multi-unit owner from Mullica Hill, NJ. “If you’ve got a 60-degree day in February, you would do four times the amount of volume than you would do on a 70-degree day in September.”

Find out more about our franchise opportunities 

To learn more about the Rita’s franchise opportunity, fill out the form on this page to access our Franchise Information Center, where you can find detailed financial results, startup costs and more.

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